Dr. King's Dream 53 Years Later

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  August 27, 2016

            Tomorrow marks the 53rd Anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving the legendary “I Have a Dream” speech. In this prophetic vision for a world that would see the end of the evils of discrimination and its devastating stain on America, Dr. King called for a nation that would live up to its founding principles and truly apply Christian love throughout the land. As the Church comes to worship tomorrow morning, perhaps we need to take stock at how far we have come, and also how far we still have to go in realizing the Dream.  
            Clearly, there are a lot of things worthy of celebration. Much of the legal discrimination laws are now only part of history. Most Americans living today have never seen first-hand the shameful signs dictating White Privilege and relegating all others to the sub-standard “Colored Only” sections. Many African Americans have risen from the clutches of poverty, discrimination and inadequate education that permeated Dr. King’s world to achieve great positions in leadership, government, business, and professional service throughout the land. Many neighborhoods no longer bear the distinctions of racial priority or exclusion. Even in the church, an institution that Dr. King lamented as blindly continuing eleven o’clock on Sunday Morning as “the most segregated hour of America,” is opening to greater diversity, integration, and understanding of what it means to embrace all people as created in God’s image.
            Yet the church has a long way to go if we are going to fully realize the prophetic, visionary dream first set forth by Dr. King over a half-century ago. When speaking to the March on Washington, Dr. King said, “In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.”
            Today, for all the gains that have been made in the name of equality, there are so many who have drank so much of the “cup of bitterness and hatred” that many are intoxicated from its poison. So great is the collective intoxication that has beset our nation (not to mention many in our own churches) that we fail to recognize how deeply un-Christian the hatred truly is.
            Clearly, the United States looks vastly different from the way it was 53 years ago. Although arguments could be made that it is better and arguments can be made that it is worse, there is no denying the reality that we live in a vastly different world today. Unfortunately, there are some in today’s world who feel a great discontent at the changes that have come our way. Such anger and bitterness is very understandable. When one’s world and way of life appears threatened and the world-view one holds no longer aligns with the realities we see around us, anger is a normal, human response.
            The problem is, however, that much in our culture and media misdirects that legitimate anger in ways that ultimately manifest as clandestine racism and discrimination. Today, bitterness and hatred are the staples of the news media, social media, and virtually all the political rhetoric coming out of the presidential campaign. It is, in many cases, nothing more than a resurgence of racism in our nation that is arising from the vestiges of Jim Crow attitudes and our national shame of chattel slavery. Such racism does not wear a hood or burn crosses to be legitimized. Rather it simply exists as a toxic cancer of anger and hatred. Given time, it will not only destroy the nation, but also the church.
            Tomorrow, let us all stand anew for the Dream! Let us do so, not according to race or gender, class or nationality, but as people united in Christ Jesus who are all created equal.